Show Some Love

The La­bor of Love pro­gram thanks farm­work­ers for har­vest­ing your leafy greens

EatingWell - - DEPARTMENTS -

Farm­work­ers en­dure long hours in harsh con­di­tions. Meet the man whose La­bor of Love pro­gram is giv­ing back to the peo­ple who grow and har­vest the pro­duce we en­joy ev­ery day.

THE SIT­U­A­TION

“It’s a gi­ant veg­etable fac­tory!” ex­claims Steve Alameda, de­scrib­ing Yuma, Ari­zona, in the thick of har­vest sea­son. In­deed, from Novem­ber to March, the town pro­duces 90 per­cent of Amer­ica’s leafy greens: 1,000 trucks a day leave with 50,000 pounds of veg­eta­bles. And 20,000 peo­ple har­vest it all. “It is hard work,” un­der­scores Alameda, co-owner of Topfla­vor Farms and pres­i­dent of the Yuma Fresh Veg­etable As­so­ci­a­tion. Farm­work­ers en­ter fields be­fore the sun rises, and can toil for 10 to 12 hours, up to 7 days a week. The phys­i­cal toll is rough: bend­ing, cut­ting, in all types of weather. Add to this a hefty com­mute: many are migrant work­ers who cross the bor­der from Mex­ico daily. “They re­ally don’t get the ap­pre­ci­a­tion they de­serve,” Alameda says.

WHAT HE DID

In 2015, Alameda and the Yuma Fresh Veg­etable As­so­ci­a­tion started La­bor of Love, a cam­paign to say thank you. Yes, it’s a small way to do so, and no, it does not fix larger is­sues farm­work­ers can face, like low wages and lack of ben­e­fits, but nev­er­the­less, it’s a step in the right di­rec­tion. The idea is sim­ple: a veg­etable grower or ship­per sur­prises a farm crew with break­fast. Work stops, and bur­ri­tos or dough­nuts and cof­fee are passed around. The spon­sor thanks crew mem­bers in­di­vid­u­ally for their work and gives ev­ery­one on the crew a gesture of ap­pre­ci­a­tion, like gift cards.

WHY IT’S COOL

So far, spon­sors like Dole have thanked 80 field crews at La­bor of Love events from Yuma to Sali­nas, Cal­i­for­nia. Crew su­per­vi­sor Sil­vino Ponce got props at one Foothill Pack­ing event for his 20 years of ser­vice. “It’s very good,” Ponce says of the ini­tia­tive. “Ev­ery­one looks for­ward to be­ing a crew that gets cho­sen. We feel that what we’re do­ing is worth­while and very im­por­tant.”

BRAN­DON TIGRETT PHOTO

Steve Alameda walks a field of leafy greens at Topfla­vor Farms in Yuma, Ari­zona.

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